Overhead shot of table of food


It's that sociable time of year when every other night seems to be a dinner date or festive catch up with friends. For those following a healthy diet, it can sometimes be difficult to make good food choices when dining out.

Before you get to the restaurant

1. Start as you mean to go on

Sometimes you have to go with the flow, but other times the choice of restaurant is open to suggestions, so recommend a healthy one! If you know you can’t avoid a calorie-laden korma at your favourite Indian, or you enjoy the sugary sweet ribs from a BBQ joint, then avoid these places altogether. Healthy alternatives include Greek or Mediterranean restaurants, which serve grilled meats, instead of fried, and a range of healthy, fresh salads.

2. Check out the menu before your visit

For those who make brash decisions when put on the spot, try to take a look at the menu before you visit the restaurant of choice. This avoids any last-minute panic ordering and allows you to pick the option that’s right for you, rather than what’s right in front of you.

3. Don't go on an empty stomach

When hunger strikes, you don’t want to be making difficult decisions. Low blood sugars result in our cells being unable to get the energy that they require, signalling symptoms of hunger to the brain and resulting in us ordering more than we should. Before you head out, try having a small snack, such as carrot sticks and peanut butter, to curb any hunger cravings.

Burger and chips

When ordering

4. Avoid the dishes that sound too good to be true

The truth is, they probably are. Sweet and sour, al forno, stuffed crusts - all add up in the battle of fats. The way food is cooked has a big impact on nutritional information. Dishes cooked in sugary sauces and oils, pastas baked in creamy sauces and pizza crusts stuffed with cheese don’t sound, look or taste healthy. These dishes can also leave a “heavy” feeling in your stomach, which can lead to abdominal discomfort post-meal.

5. Be aware of portions

If you’re heading out to a buffet, portions piled onto plates and repeat visits have a major impact on nutritional values. Try to keep your plate to one layer – there is no need to pile high– and ensure at least half the plate is filled with colourful salad and vegetable options. If you feel like you’ll struggle with food discipline, try to increase your intake of konjac fibre. This will make you feel fuller, sooner, and can be taken easily in capsule form (Protein World Hunger Busters.)

6. Choose the right side

It’s normal to order a burger with a side of fries and coleslaw, or to bulk up our pasta with garlic bread and parmesan, but these additional sides can cause our once healthy choices to tip the scale to the other end. If you’re looking to bulk up a salad, swap chunky chips for a corn on the cob, or for the burger lovers, ask for a side salad with light dressing to add flavour and texture to a meal – without excess fat.

Friends around the table

During the chow down

7. Chew your food

The recommended amount of chewing dense foods is up to 30 times, but we know this isn’t always possible. Try to chew as much as you can so the food is broken down before swallowing, and avoid talking mid-sentence. Talking causes us to chew fast and swallow quicker, as we want to get our words out, resulting in an increase of oxygen absorption which can leave us feeling bloated.

8. Steer clear of sugar-laden drinks

There’s temptation from every corner when dining out. You’ve made the right choices in terms of meal and you’re going to treat yourself to a drink. Avoid the appeal of a cost-effective refill, it’ll save pounds in the wallet but add them elsewhere. Ordering one drink at a time allows you to pace yourself, and remove the influx of sugar through fizzy drinks.

9. Scrimp back on condiments

Ordering a salad and then piling four sachets of full fat mayonnaise on top is a wasted effort. If you need a dressing, opt for a balsamic vinegar base over full-fat mayonnaise, ketchups or salad creams. Alternatively, ensure your source of protein, whether tofu or meat, is seasoned well, as this will often eliminate the need for any side dressings.

And most importantly...

10. Enjoy yourself

Probably the most important tip when dining out; make sure you enjoy your food. Don’t spoil your experience because you’re focussing on what you can and can’t eat. If you do decide to go for a slightly unhealthy option, then do it, enjoy it, and start again at the next meal. Life is about being healthy, happy and balanced, and we’re all entitled to a treat every now and again.